Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) led a delegation of Congressional Black Caucus members to the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday in San Ysidro, California, where they said they witnessed first-hand the deplorable treatment and plight of Black immigrants.
Bass, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY), each said they wanted to examine the treatment – and call attention to the mistreatment – of African immigrants at the border, including the October 1 death of 37-year-old Cameroon immigrant Nebane Abienwi.
Attorney Nana Gyamfi, the executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, joined the group at the border.
“It was a very frustrating experience today,” Bass said from the border during an exclusive conference call with publishers, editors, and writers for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association that represents the newspaper and media companies that comprise the Black Press of America.
“We crossed the border into Tijuana, Mexico, and we met with a group of Black immigrants from Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and other African countries. Some who have made unbelievable journeys,” Bass stated.
The CBC Chair and her colleagues blasted the Trump administration and its policies toward immigrants, particularly those from countries that consist predominately of people of color.
Bass described the sobering plight of a Black migrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The first child separated from her mother was from a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The child was sent to Illinois while the mother, who spoke French, was detained at the border,” Bass stated.
“This happens as our country grapples with [a president] who makes it clear that he welcomes immigrants from places like Norway, but not ‘sh-thole’ countries. He’s breaking the law. International law states that if you are from a country that’s experiencing distress, you can request asylum. Trump has done everything he can to block that and to make the United States not compliant with international law,” Bass noted.
In the case of Abienwi, the Cameroonian died in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after experiencing a hypertensive event at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego.
Reportedly, he was unresponsive and appeared paralyzed on his left side when he arrived at the hospital. After undergoing treatment for a brain hemorrhage, Bass said Abienwi was taken off life support against his family’s wishes and died.
Doctors listed his official cause of death as brain death due to a brain hemorrhage.
“Thousands of African and Caribbean immigrants who immigrate to the United States of America are treated as if they are invisible,” Bass stated.
“Many arrived in South America and then walked north, all to be dehumanized and mistreated at our southern border. We [went] to the border to hear what they have been through. They are an important piece of this story,” Bass said.
In a statement, officials at ICE said they’re still in the process of reviewing Abienwi’s death.
According to various published reports, the Department of Homeland Security records had revealed that Abienwi applied for admission into the country at the San Ysidro Port of Entry without proper paperwork on September 5.